Saturday, August 28, 2010

Media Justice Mash-Up: Rape, Violence, Poverty & Making Media

Cross posted from my Media Justice column

As the summer comes to a close and I prepare for teaching a new group of public intellectuals in my class, I’m reminded of the amazing work by the media makers I know and love. Here I’d like to share some of the musings, theorizing, and communities building that media makers in my network have been creating. I encourage you all to spend some time with each of the pieces that resonate with you and take some time to also read the comments section of each piece as they are wonderful additions to the conversations.

My homegirl Problem Chylde has begun to share her musings with us again. I’ve missed reading her writing on her own site (she has had guest blogging spots on feministe ). This past week she’s had two amazing pieces on her own blog, the first focuses on media, community and pop culture responses to the rape of the sister of Antoine Dodson. In her article titled “think twice” she writes:

think twice before you laugh at antoine dodson. i know everything is supposed to take a backseat to short-lived fame and exposure. but how would you feel if your sister was attacked by a rapist and people did nothing about it? officials laughed at you, police took their time coming to investigate, media crews didn’t arrive until you called them, and then your time on the news gets spoofed to entertain others instead of warn them. antoine’s taking his time in the spotlight in stride, and i think he’s doing it for kelly’s sake. i hope all the people laughing and singing “hide your kids, hide your wife” are writing all of the people in kelly’s community and state to do something about catching the rapist.

I pick this piece of hers first because I’ve seen this video of Antoine Dodson shared on Twitter and mostly on my Facebook among friends and other folks who found it hilarious. I admit that I was one of those people who first heard the story via this outlet and I did chuckle. At the same time I realized that this was a story of a community that was in distress. Will we laugh as we watch the images during this 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina? As Problem Chylde asks: “how loudly would you scream if you realized no one is truly safe?”

Problemchyle also wrote a piece on class, status, desire, and perception/stereotypes. Her piece called “poor people aren’t supposed to want nice things” is one I’m going to include on my class syllabus. She addresses several stereotypes about how we think about and work with working class and working poor communities, but also how we experience and our expectations of poverty. She shares:

However, if you take what little disposable income you have and buy sushi, you are doing wrong. Poor people do not want things like smartphones (you’re poor; who are you calling on a smartphone?), televisions (you’re poor; what do you need entertainment for?), nice cars (why wouldn’t you get a modest car to get around when you’re poor), or delicious food (do you know how much ramen you could have bought for the cost of that scone?). Poor people should not take any windfalls or nest eggs or scraped together pennies and expose themselves to luxuries. After all, isn’t that just a brutal reminder of how poor they are any other time? Why not just face the fact that poor is what you are, poor is what you shall be, and poor means that you cannot have nice things?

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard people say to me, friends, lovers, partners, and other poor people, that they hate seeing an expensive car sitting in the parking garage in a housing project. How ironic they find it that folks living in a housing project would have an entertainment system, delicious food to eat in their refrigerator, and clothing to wear that makes them proud of their body and who they are. I’ll admit when I hear folks say things such as this I have never spoken against it. I’ve asked “why” but never challenged them in the ways I knew I could. I see this piece as a call to action, as do many of the commenter who have echoed what she says and have shared some of their own testimonies about being poor.

My other homegirl, poet, activist, Cripchick who identifies as a “powerchair-roaring, young queer disabled woman of color,” sent me a tweet saying she wrote a piece just for me this week. Her piece “j.cole & hip hop as a form of youth media” discusses what J.Cole is doing while creating his form of media: Hip-Hop music. Cripchick writes:

having just signed to roc nation, j.cole is on the up and up. he is putting fayetteville on the map. the problem with cole going so hard for the ‘ville is that a lot of folks are up in arms about what it is that he is representing. (most of the voices being heard are white people. a few black community leaders are thrown in for validation.) my friends & i watch his video and we see youth of color taking over the city. claiming this place. recognizing ritual. understanding that j.cole had to leave fayetteville & the south but unlike everyone else, he came back. others see him emphasizing “blight” and fayetteville negatively.

A Fayetville resident, Cripchick has a perspective of her hometown that we as outsiders rarely get a chance to experience, consider, or hear. She shares how she understands and knows how some folks (outsiders to Hip-Hop culture and music also) may consume his media.

i went to two high school graduations this summer and j.cole got a shout out in both valedictorian speeches. if j. cole comes on anywhere (party, mall, festival, wherever), folks jump up. (young) people (of color), like me, are proud as hell of j. cole. i assume that anti-racist progressives i know will see the video in the same way — that cole did the right thing by shooting the video here in fayetteville and including cheerleaders and marching bands from the local HBCU & high school next to it — but they’re with the city: outraged and/or disgusted that this is what is being put out about fayetteville.

Cripchick shares three things she knows for sure, and this is just three reasons why I adore her. She says she believes “hip hop is a threat to dominant culture. it is one of the most powerful forms of media and people don’t want youth of color to have that power.” There is no way I can disagree with her about this, as someone who was born in the 70s, I still feel this, even if most of what I hear today is not what I would choose to purchase, but I see the power nonetheless. She also states “our idea around tone and appropriateness is rooted in white supremacy and class hierarchy.” Couldn’t say it better myself. And finally, one of my favorite things I have learned from having Cripchick in my life is the importance of this quote here “youth of color hardly have any (institutional) power. taking away our language is taking away one of the few things we have control over.” Embracing this ideology has added so much value to my life and to the work I do and how I examine media and language. This one sentence has so much truth.

On the truth tip, my other homegirl: bfp, who is an amazing activist, writer, and seeker of justice for all communities, wrote early on regarding the Rhianna and Eminem song “Love The Way You Lie.” She unapologetically is who she is which is why I adore her. The responses by many folks who do not often read her writing (for various reasons) were not all in support of her perspective on violence, relationships, sex and love. As a result she wrote three different pieces discussing her experiences and thoughts about how others were reading and responding to her words (I encourage you to visit her site as I want to honor her request of not sharing specific quotes). Her first untitled piece spoke about how exhausted she is, how she too is a survivor of violence, and how we continue to shape only small limited spaces for narratives of survivors of violence. What about all the other survivors? Her second untitled piece focused on how a larger readership and writership in the Internets were/are responding to her words and the video. She shares how feminism has hurt her and writes and as someone who has also been hurt, and continues to be hurt, by feminisms I know intimately what she writes about. Although some of our experiences are not the same, we share this similar pain and healing process. bfp then goes on to share her “non stressed out thoughts about eminem/rihana” where she asks “when is anybody going to talk about the intervention that rihanna/eminem just made as hip/hop/r&b type artists in a world that is notorious about supporting abuse against women?”

I have yet to read something where this occurs. If you know please share. I’d love to hear this conversation occur as a form of media making around sexual assault using this piece of media and music as a platform for social change around violence. If you do not already have bfp on your current reading list I highly suggest you include her on it immediately!

Finally, two pieces of media that have been created, and that I am a part of so they have a special place in my heart and thus receive a shameless plug: The Black Girl Project and HomegirlTV. The Black Girl Project was started by my homegirl, mami, activist, filmmaker, professor and all around dope person: Aiesha Turman. I have a interview with her coming up for the Media Makers Salon. Aiesha has started this project and now created a non-profit organization of which I am on the board. Our first premiere screening of her film is in Brooklyn this Friday. It is a documentary film that “portrays Black girls as the complex beings they are; not just the two sides of the coin we perpetuated in the media: victim or victimizer.” If you are interested in having the film screened in your community and/or area please get in touch with us via The Black Girl Project website! Below are two trailers for her film.

The Black Girl Project {teaser 2: electric boogaloo} from Aiesha Turman on Vimeo.

The Black Girl Project {teaser} from Aiesha Turman on Vimeo.

Finally, my homegirl, who I’ve mentioned before, Sofia Quintero, is creating one of her many amazing projects into an interactive communal form of media. She’s been thinking of HomegirlTV for a very long time and here is the trailer! (Yes, that’s me).

Sofia’s vision is one where she hopes people will send in questions and have the Homegirls share their suggestions on how to cope, work through, overcome an array of situations and issues. If you would like an invitation to join or to submit a query send an email to . This is a project I’m very honored and excited to be a part of as this is something that I wish I could have had when I was coming into my own identity. I hope those of you who work with youth or find yourselves needing some space to be affirmed join us!

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